Contest Aims to Find Sea Level Rise Resilience Projects

Feb 13, 2020

Money is key to making the Hampton Roads area resilient as land there sinks and sea-level rises, threatening a key part of the state's economy.  Cost estimates run into the billions of dollars.

Now, small businesses are stepping up with solutions.

Four years ago, Virginia received more than $120 million in a grant from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. Most is being used for design and implementation of infrastructure that will reduce the city of Norfolk's vulnerability to flooding. Norfolk has one of the nation's fastest rates of sea-level rise. So a portion of the grant is seeding six small businesses to implement innovative ideas at an economic accelerator lab called RISE.

A raised house in the town of Guinea.
Credit Pamela D'Angelo

Roderick Scott is working with one of the grant winners, a house-raising academy for local building contractors set to begin in April.  "One of the ways to mitigate buildings from flooding is to elevate them. In Louisiana where I'm from we've done about 36,000 since Katrina and my town is 80 percent elevated. What we're going to do is teach the contracting force here how it works the best that we've discovered over the last 10, 12 years."

Other 2019 grant winners include a business that builds oyster reefs along shorelines and a company that will harvest energy from the infamous Hampton Roads traffic to produce energy.

This year the grant competition is adding a new challenge to businesses. Paul Robinson is executive director of RISE.  "We're doing a challenge where we want a solution that will bring in real time flooding information to mobile and routing apps for drivers."

Applications for this year's RISE Coastal Community Resilience Challenges and the new Urban Mobility Challenge are still being accepted.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.